Sleepy LaBeef — Early, Rare and Rockin’ Sides

This is another record that will be forever associated with my bleakest summer, the summer of ’81. Not quite 21, I was drunk and adrift. I had skipped the previous semester because of financial problems, working full time and earning enough to get back on track, but using that time to make my attitude progressively worse. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Even if I figured it out, that summer, the person I had wanted to do it with didn’t want to do it with me anymore.

Sleepy LaBeef Early, Rare and Rockin' Sides front cover
Sleepy LaBeef Early, Rare and Rockin’ Sides front cover

So when I wasn’t working – it was a newspaper production job, squeezing 40+ hours into 3-1/2 days, leaving me exhausted but with long weekends to ruin – I stayed holed up in a dark front room in our Marshall Street walkup, tucked into a little booth of sadness I had constructed for listening to records. And as I’ve said before, I listened to the same handful of records over and over and over that summer. Primarily, it was The Clash, Eddie Cochran, some Turtles, and Sleepy LaBeef.

I don’t know what occasioned me to give this record a try. I had certainly never heard of Sleepy LaBeef when I found it at Desert Shore Records, a Charly records release. Maybe it was because it was clearly rockabilly and I was on my Eddie Cochran tear?

In any case, buy it I did, and I took to it right away. For a collection of songs recorded in the ’50s, the sound was, on most of the tracks, incredibly fresh. It still is. This is pure old rockabilly, harder edged than Buddy Holly, more booming and rocking than Eddie Cochran. Again, I hadn’t even heard of Sleepy, didn’t know that he was not only a legend but one who was enjoying a resurgence in Europe at the time. Despite my love of this album, I did not run across another Sleepy record during my collecting years – this was it.

Sleepy LaBeef Early, Rare and Rockin' Sides back cover
Sleepy LaBeef Early, Rare and Rockin’ Sides back cover
Sleepy LaBeef label
Sleepy LaBeef label

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